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Writing Effective Business Emails

Have you noticed that businesspeople nowadays tend to take less and less care to express their exact meaning in emails? Email is quick and easy, so who really needs to worry about it? Actually, you do. Here are six tips for writing better business emails.

Writing Effective Business Emails
Choose the Right Medium 
The first question to ask is, is email the right medium for my message? It's a matter of knowing your audience. I often, for example, thank people by email. Some of my clients, however, are more formal than I am, and they send, and expect to receive, handwritten notes.

Choose a Good Subject Line
In all business writing, you should make it clear as quickly as possible why your message is important to the reader. For this, a good subject line is critical. A subject line like "HI" or the day of the week or the sender's name doesn't help much, and at the very least it indicates a lack of imagination. 

Include the Original Message in Your Reply
To improve clarity, you should always include in your reply the message you're responding to. How many emails have you gotten that say simply, "Yes"? If the original message isn't included, this may cause some confusion, especially if it's from someone to whom you have sent several emails or who is responding three weeks after the fact. 

Use Standard Business English
To make your message clear, use standard language. It may be easier to write phonetically, with no capitalization and little punctuation, but business readers aren't going to put up with that for long. By the same token, avoid emoticons, like smiley faces or multiple exclamation points. Often they are simply a substitute for taking the time to say exactly what you mean. 

Pay Attention to Detail
Take as much care with email as you would with any written document. Edit carefully. Typographical errors can be embarrassing and may convey the wrong message. If you say you're going to send an attachment, remember to do it. You may, in fact, ask yourself if an attachment is the best way of sending this information, rather than in the body of your email, or some other way. 

Make sure that your email is going to the right person and that it hasn't been automatically addressed by your computer to Marcia F., when you meant to send it to Marcia G. Also think about who your email may inadvertently be forwarded to.

Use an Automatic Signature Line
If people want to call you, don't make them scrounge around for your phone number. A signature line also gives you an opportunity to market yourself. I, for example. always include my tagline. A signature line also helps when you get an email signed simply, "Jim," because sometimes who it could be does not readily come to mind, especially if they have a generic email address like BizWriter@aol.com. 

These few tips should improve your business emails and help you communicate your message more clearly.

All the best,
P.S. Remember: a selection of my past newsletters is available online at http://www.holton.cc/archive.html.